Sunday, July 27, 2008

RadioActive People

RadioActive People

That is not a typo.  I am not talking about people giving off dangerous radiation.  RadioActive is the term I have coined for people who seem to feel a compulsive need to talk on the VHF radio.  They must keep that radio active.

A couple of years ago I followed the logs of a young couple doing a circumnavigation.  Shortly after they moved aboard in Florida they mentioned that they had turned off their VHF radio except for when they needed to place a call – like to a marina or harbormaster.  They did not associate with other cruisers because all the cruisers talked about was boats and weather.  I could certainly understand them not wanting to associate with other cruisers because they were young and well below the age of the average cruiser; but not monitoring VHF channel 16 seemed downright negligent.  For you landlubbers, channel 16 is used worldwide for maritime announcements such as mayday or pan-pan or security (pronounced securitay with a long “A”, not ending in the long “E” sound)..  A mayday call should be placed only when you are in extreme distress and are sinking or are abandoning ship during an emergency situation.  You had better be prepared to pay for the rescue in a large part of the world; not like in the USA where the Coast Guard rescues and the government pays for it.   A pan-pan call should be placed if there is a man overboard or you are in distress and need assistance.  And a security call should be used to notify mariners of an uncharted navigational hazard, such as a sunken vessel or lost cargo container, etc.  Every boat equipped with a VHF radio is supposed to constantly monitor channel 16.  Channel 16 is also used as the international hailing channel.  You hail another boat, they answer and then you both switch to any number of other channels to converse.  You are never supposed to have a conversation on channel 16; that channel is for maritime announcements and hailing only.  Sometimes the hailing gets way out of hand because some people are so chatty.  This young couple turned their VHF radio because the frequent radio chatter of cruisers was driving them crazy.

Now I understand why they stopped listening to the VHF radio.  There seems to be a number of cruisers who are really chatty.  The boats with children are the absolute worst.  It is getting so bad that we would love to simply turn off our radio.  Several times recently we have turned off the radio because the traffic was so annoying.

Since arriving in Papeete and all through Moorea, Huahine, Raiatea & Taha’a, and now in Bora Bora, the VHF airwaves are filled with the same few boats hailing one another or crew members of a single boat hailing each other as they run different errands or visit different friends -– sometimes a dozen times in one hour from the same couple of boats.  I can’t mention the real boat names, but there are a few that are driving both Bill and me to distraction.   One cruising family has multiple handheld radios.  They each take a radio whenever they leave their boat.  Let’s give this boat the assumed name of WHALE since it is named after a particular species whale.  So you will have calls such as:

and so on, and so on, and so on, ad infinitum. 

This nonsense goes on all day long and we really get tired of hearing it.  The very worst are the children, especially teenagers.  We all know how much teenagers like to talk on the phone.  On a boat the VHF radio replaces the phone.  So when there are boats with teenagers aboard visiting the same area, the teenagers dominate the radio airwaves. 

Almost all VHF radios can be set to monitor more than one channel.  If our friends on FREE SPIRIT are in the same area then both boats will set our radios to monitor channel 16 and also monitor another channel such as channel 69.  The radios will automatically switch to channel 69 if there is any traffic on that channel.  We call this our private channel or working channel and we can talk to each other without bothering all the other boats within a 25 mile radius who are monitoring channel 16.

All boats with children should set up their own private channel with their children’s friends.  And crew members going shore or visiting with handheld radios should also set up their own private channel.  If Bill leaves the boat and I stay home, he always takes a handheld set to channel 68 (one of the high-power channels) and I set the main boat radio to monitor Ch 16 and Ch 68.  If we both go ashore, then we each carry a handheld radio set to Ch 68.  That way we don’t annoy every other boat in the area with our discussions or unnecessary hailing on Ch 16.

Heaven help us from RadioActive people.  They don’t have a bit of common sense.

Oh, BTW, we are now in Bora Bora; anchored near the infamous Bloody Mary’s.  Boats are supposed to take a mooring ball at Bloody Mary’s, but there is a shortage of mooring balls.  Yesterday afternoon as we were entering the pass we heard several people on the radio.  One person would announce that he was leaving a mooring and another would announce that he was taking that mooring.  First person to claim it had better get there fast.  We decided not to enter into that foray.  Instead, we anchored in fairly deep water behind the mooring field.  Put out 275 feet of anchor chain – the most chain we have used to date.  There is a large expedition super yacht anchored nearby and he is unknowingly supplying us with free WiFi. 

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